I loved the high drama of Julius Caesar and the family intrigue of Hamlet. Was fascinated by the Scottish play and laughed at the cleverness of the Merchant of Venice. In between the laughs at the people of Venice I learned a lesson which has stayed with me all my life. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” The first time I had come across racism and I was instantly repelled. I made a connection with the family hatreds in Romeo and Juliet and could see the inevitability of the ensuing tragedy. For if we, as humans, are so fond of our prejudices at a family level, how can we rid ourselves of them at a national or a racial level? I was a strange kid, back then.
The story of the Moor. A black man. An outsider. In charge of white men and with a beautiful white wife. In the newspapers I was reading of the civil rights movement in America. My teenaged chivalry could not comprehend the jealous rage which led to Desdemona’s murder. It could accept that Iago was evil and conniving and ruthless.
Skipping forwards in time, over half a century, I find myself older, perhaps a little wiser and, since the New Year, with that familiar feeling of anger and impending loss.
I can see a tragedy unfolding and there is nothing I can do about it. I can even see the familiar characters within the plot.
There is my beautiful and beloved country, at the peak of its powers, being led by a wonderfully talented woman. A marriage which could lead to Australia becoming a true power in the world. To our children and grand-children living in a wealthy and strong nation.
Yet I can see the growing threat of a tragic end to this hope.
The part of Iago is being played by the oldwhitemaleigarchy of the media and the cold-heartedly ambitious conservatives who cannot accept that a woman may have true power and ability.
We, the Australian Electorate are being played by the modern Iago as Othello was played and this year, at the Federal Election, we will smother the best thing that has happened in our lives.
There is a Shakespearian inevitability which I feel creeping into my bones, into my soul.
We will destroy this once in a lifetime chance to be great and replace it with a lesser vision. Lesser in every way. As a nation we shall, in eliminating Julia Gillard, ruin ourselves with a false and incompetent leadership.
As another of Shakespeare’s characters found, after doing evil, we shall walk through our lives forever washing our hands crying, “Out, damned spot! out!” But, as Lady Macbeth discovered, it is too late after the deed.
Anger and loss and impotence are my over-riding emotions this year.
For I fear the ending is already written in unchangeable words and we shall all cry as the curtain comes down.